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Phil Wilson - Interview Part 1

  by Anthony Strutt

published: 4 / 12 / 2010

Phil Wilson - Interview Part 1


The front man with influential indie pop band the June Brides, Phil Wilson recently released his debut solo album, 'God Bless Jim Kennedy'. In the first part of a two part interview, he speaks to Anthony Strutt about the 80's group and returning to song writing after an absence of over twenty years

Phil Wilson is the former front man with the influential London-based indie pop band the June Brides whose debut and only album, 'There Are Eight Million Stories', came out in 1985. After an absence of over twenty years, Wilson, who is now based in Devon, started writing songs again a few years ago. He has just released his first solo album, 'God Bless Jim Kennedy', which includes Painted Word front man Arash Torabi on bass. In a two part interview, Pennyblackmusic spoke to Wilson at a gig in London to promote 'God Bless Jim Kennedy' about both the June Brides and the new album. PB: Were you in any bands before you formed the June Brides? PW: I was in a lot of punk bands when I was a teenager and at school. We had a different stupid name every week. Then when I went to college I had a terrible time there, but I met the guys and we became friends and decided to enter this talent competition, just to rip the piss out of it. We did a punk rock set and basically taught the bass player how to play the day before the gig. We were called International Rescue and we won! Then we won the next round and were second in the final and a couple of weeks later we were supporting the Higsons at a proper venue. We were only doing it for a laugh, so we stopped immediately after that because it was just a joke. After that I did some electronic stuff for about six months and then I decided I wanted to do pop music really. A couple of guys in that stupid band with me were still keen to do something and then we formed the June Brides. That was my first proper band. PB: Where did the name come from? It is unusual. PW: With many bands you know from their name what they are going to sound like, so I was just trying to find a name where you heard it and then wondered what we were going to be like. The thought was to keep the band open to ideas and I also thought that it would be funny calling a bunch of blokes the June Brides. PB: How long did you last? PW: We formed in 1983 and lasted until 1986. We did four singles and one album, 'There Are Eight Million Stories', in our lifetime. I put together one further single which came out afterwards, a John Peel session. Peel picked his favourites to release first and we were one of the first acts to get released on the Strange Fruit label. When you see the amount of bands that did John Peel Sessions over the years, and that we were one of his favourites, it makes me very proud. PB: Why did it end when it did? Did the others want to do something else? PW: No, it was kind of mutual. We only formed to release a single. That was the idea. We would do one single and then we would merrily retire, but things went faster then that. The album ended up doing really well and went to number one in the independent chart. PB: And that was when it meant something too. PW: Yeah, we were told by Rough Trade that it had sold 36,000 copies. Nowadays we would be in the proper chart. Our later singles, 'No Place Like Home' and 'This Town', were quite sophisticated and the more we improved the less people liked us (Laughs). It just felt like diminishing returns and we were also fed up with it all. We had also just toured with the Smiths and, while we had had fun, we saw what a miserable time the Smiths were having and being pop stars looked a bit rubbish (Laughs). We decided that perhaps we didn't want to do it anymore. We didn't want to ram it down people throats by plodding on. We thought we had done really well and it was time to just give up. I wasn't going to give up music completely. Alan McGee had been in touch and asked if I would be on Creation. Really the June Brides should have been on Creation, but Alan wouldn't sign us because it would have seemed too obvious. Everyone said he should sign us, but as soon as we split he was very keen to sign me. We did a couple of singles including a country and western flavoured one. Alan spent quite a bit of money on them, but they just bombed. PB: At this time Creation were releasing a lot of albums and singles, but this was way before it had become fashionable. PW: It had got over the big the Loft and Jesus and Mary Chain sort of things and it went through a periodical trough period. When I was there, I was part of that. They just did really, really badly and I decided to just give up. I was kind of fed up after the June Brides. We were really poor. Even though we had had a number one album, we didn't have any money, I had been on the dole for years. I was completely broke and living in a squat. I just thought that I would give up and do something else. There is nothing as sad as an old man of 26 still trying to make it in the music business. I felt sod it. PB: Did you then get a day job then? PW: Yeah. PB: Was it what you went to college for? PW: No, My mum applied for a job for me. I told her that I was looking for a job and she didn't believe me, so she applied for a job for me in the civil service. I ended up working for customs and excise and eventually at the treasury as senior tax advisor. The climate, however, changed when I went into tax. It was a hideous, stressful job and I became really ill and ended up in hospital with the stress of it all. This was around the time that John Peel and Joe Strummer died. They both died very young and I thought to myself, "I am doing a job I really hate that has made me ill. Why don't I just give it up and have a go to see if I can write songs again and if anything happens?" I tipped my finger into the water again and I spent a year doing cover versions because I hadn't written a song in about twenty years. I had forgotten how to do it really and I thought a good way to learn how to do so was to find a bunch of my favourite songs and rework them. It sort of worked and I was up and running again. PB: Did any get released? PW: Most of them were for home consumption, but a lot got released on tiny labels. A double 7 inch came out on Slumberland in America with me doing banjo and acoustic guitar versions of industrial music. I did a bit of Throbbing Gristle. I did Faust. I did some Kraftwerk. I did a cover by a band called STT. I did another EP as well called 'New Wave', which had acoustic banjo versions of songs by the Subway Sect, the Lines, bands like that, and Ade Edmondson, the guy from 'The Young Ones', stole that idea and is now doing it at festivals. That was about 2007 and 2008. PB: Slumberland is a US label. PW: Yes, they are quite hip and trendy at the moment. PB: Are they like an American version of Creation? PW: Yes, they are about at the level that Creation was in 1986. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are signed to them over there and they are doing very well. They have been going a long time and about twenty years now. PB: How did you get involved with Arash Torabi from the Painted Word and who plays bass on 'God Bless Jim Kennedy'? PW: Arash lives in Plymouth, which is near where I am now based in Devon. I think he goes completely through MySpace looking for people who like the Television Personalities and who live near him in Devon. He has nobody there to talk to about indie music, so he contacted me. We met up, had coffees and he connected me up with a local label called Pop Noise Records who were doing similar stuff. There are great bands on there and he knew Andy the drummer in my band as well. He just eventually suggested that we play together and do a gig, and it bloomed from there really. PB: You also played on the recent Painted Word album, 'Not Yet Saved'. PW: He did most of the album before I got involved. I played on two songs with him. PB: And there has been a June Brides reunion as well, hasn't there? PW: There has been been a few. We have done a couple of one offs. It has always been when our stuff has been re-released. We did one in 1995, another in 2002, and another when the tribute album, 'Still Unravished', came out in 2006. PB: How did you feel when the tribute album came out? PW: It was fantastic. We got the Television Personalities to do something, the Jasmine Minks and the Manic Street Preachers which sounds odd, but I knew they were big fans. The guy who put it out at Yes Boy Ice Cream wouldn't let me hear all of it until it came out. He just sent me three tracks and they sounded great. I actually cried because I knew then at last thatI was not a musical failure. PB: Edition 59 have put out two singles of yours, 'Better Days' and a reissue of 'New Wave'. PW: Yeah, Werner who runs it puts out these three inch cd singles. There are just fifty nine copies of each. It is really something to treasure like an art object. PB: The new album is also ready, isn't it? PW: Yes, it has been two years since the first song and we recorded it in a shed in the countryside in Devon, but it is ready and we are proud of it. The second part of this interview will be published in January.

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Phil Wilson - Interview Part 1

Phil Wilson - Interview Part 1

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Interview Part 2 (2011)
Phil Wilson - Interview Part 2
In the second part of our two part interview with former June Brides' front man Phil Wilson, he talks to Anthony Strutt about 'God Bless Jim Kennedy', his debut solo CD and first album in twenty five years


God Bless Jim Kennedy (2010)
Infectious and completely compelling indie pop on fiery debut album from former June Brides front man, Phil Wilson
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